Saturday, February 9, 2013

Indian-Style Sweet & Sour Eggplant

This is my version of an Indian sweet and sour eggplant recipe called Khatha-Meetha Baigan, which has a more mellow, deeper and subtly earthier flavor than than the cloyingly-sweet, one-dimensional red sweet & sour sauce found at many Americanized Chinese restaurants.

The traditional Indian dish usually is made with very small, long-stemmed eggplants that are cooked whole in mustard oil and spiced with fiery red chilies native to India. My version uses the ordinary purple eggplant commonly found in U.S. supermarkets, mustard seed toasted in ghee (Indian clarified butter, found at Whole Foods, Indian markets and metropolitan supermarkets - you can substitute vegetable oil if you're vegan or can't find ghee), and ground red pepper plus red pepper flakes, for a rich, tangy-sweet flavor with medium-hot heat. You can add more pepper, or use Indian chiles if you find them, for a hotter, more fiery flavor.

One thing to keep in mind in making this recipe is that the cubed eggplant will absorb the ghee or oil quite readily, making the dish very rich but also lusciously buttery if using ghee (which is lower in fat than ordinary butter, with a lovely nutty flavor). Unless you are vegan, I recommend using ghee rather than oil because of the superior flavor. Don't add more ghee or oil after the eggplant quickly absorbs virtually all in the pan; Trust me, the eggplant won't burn or stick. Only add the additional ghee or oil as indicated in the recipe, after removing the sauteed eggplant.

1 smallish purple eggplant (approx 3/4 lb), trimmed but not peeled
2 Tbs plus 1 Tbs ghee (Indian clarified butter) or oil
1 Tbs mustard seed
3/4 cup chopped onion
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs ginger paste or freshly grated ginger
1 Tbs tamarind paste
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
scant 1/4 cup hot water
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground red pepper or cayenne powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Kosher salt

Cooked eggplant
Cut the eggplant into small cubes, no more than 1/2" in size.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of ghee or oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add mustard seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until seeds start to sizzle and become aromatic, about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add eggplant and stir-fry for about 2 minutes until evenly coated; reduce heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning lightly golden, about 12-15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove eggplant from wok or pan and set aside.

Add 1 Tablespoon of ghee or oil to the wok or skillet, bring heat back up to medium-high and saute onions, garlic & ginger until onion is translucent & softened. 

Stir in tamarind paste, brown sugar, ground & crushed pepper, salt and water. Cook at a bubbly simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened somewhat, about 15 minutes or so.

Stir in eggplant, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice or Indian bread such as Nan or Indian "pancakes" such as Dosa or Utappam (savory pancake with spicy vegetables). Serves 2 to 4.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're looking for Indian recipes, be sure to visit the Carolina Sauce Company on Pinterest, where I've devoted a board to Indian recipes.

PPS: For fans of curry, we now offer a magnificent all-natural Papaya Curry Sauce & Marinade that's tangy-sweet and also doubles as a flavorful tenderizing marinade (the natural enzymes in papaya will tenderize meat and help the flavors penetrate). It adds exotic tropical curry flavor and medium heat to any type of meat, poultry, fish, shrimp and even vegetables. Buy it on sale on our Jerks & Curry page at the Carolina Sauces online store.

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